August 23, 2018

Starbucks partnered with Stellar to create a highly advanced soluble coffee manufacturing facility in Augusta, Georgia. The facility showcases numerous innovations in processing and packaging. Key features include operational flexibility, nitrogen blanketing to preserve flavor and freshness, temperature control throughout the process, high-performance and eco-friendly roasting systems, careful cooling methods, advanced extraction technology, aroma recovery to enhance taste, unique product concentration techniques, a patented spray drying approach, and same-day packaging for maximum freshness. Starbucks' investment in this facility has revolutionized the soluble coffee industry and serves as a success story for other producers seeking to elevate their brands.

August 20, 2018

Starbucks collaborated with Stellar to create a unique soluble coffee plant in Augusta, Georgia, focusing on producing their VIA instant coffee products. Food safety was a key priority for Starbucks throughout the design and construction process of the facility. Despite the absence of specific regulations for soluble coffee, Starbucks voluntarily adhered to the rigorous food safety and quality certification programs of the British Retail Consortium (BRC). The plant incorporated several measures to ensure food safety:

1. Back-in dock doors: Rubber-sealed doors were implemented for trucks to back into during unloading, reducing the risk of contaminants entering the facility.

2. Green bean receiving: The design included elevated silos with walls to minimize the risk of contamination when receiving coffee beans.

3. Advanced automation: The plant minimized human intervention by utilizing specialized pipes and equipment, nitrogen blanketing, and a control room for centralized control and real-time data review.

4. Clean-in-place (CIP) capability: The plant employed a CIP system that allowed for cleaning during each step of the process, ensuring efficient and sanitary operations.

5. Separation of raw and finished product: The plant design ensured a complete separation between the raw material and finished product areas to prevent cross-contamination.

Starbucks' commitment to food safety and their innovative approach has allowed them to create a simple and safe brewing experience for consumers while maintaining the highest quality standards.

August 7, 2018

In the competitive food and beverage industry, speed to market is crucial for new construction projects. To ensure success, there are five key considerations:

1. Define a clear project scope: Work closely with stakeholders to establish project goals and expectations, identify equipment manufacturers, and align throughput and production expectations with the budget and infrastructure. Building flexibility into the plant design can accommodate future changes.

2. Factor equipment installation into the budget: Besides the cost of equipment itself, consider the infrastructure needs and costs associated with installing the equipment on-site. Communicate with OEMs to understand installation requirements and budget accordingly.

3. Understand infrastructure capabilities: Assess the electrical, water, and gas needs of the facility to ensure the plant's design aligns with utility expectations. Understanding infrastructure capabilities before construction begins is crucial.

4. Factor equipment priorities into scheduling: Many processing equipment items have long lead times, so make equipment decisions early to avoid delays. Work backward from the desired operational date and allow buffer time for unforeseen delays or obstacles.

5. Set realistic expectations for commissioning times: After construction, allow sufficient time for installing, calibrating, and testing equipment, as well as training employees. Consider the impact of the project on other areas of the facility, communicate with the plant team, and plan accordingly to minimize downtime or disruptions.

By considering these factors, food and beverage companies can set themselves up for success and ensure that their construction projects stay on track.

August 1, 2018

Maple Leaf Foods (MLF) constructed a new meat processing facility in Hamilton, Canada, with an investment of approximately $395 million. The facility, commissioned in 2014, is the largest and most technologically advanced in Canada. It occupies 48 acres of land and produces deli meats, processed meat, and wieners, without involvement in slaughtering or rendering. The facility employs automation to enhance food safety and reduce contamination risks. It simplified MLF's distribution network and created over 670 jobs. The plant is designed for sustainability and aims to achieve LEED Silver certification while complying with Canadian food inspection standards.

July 3, 2018

Food and beverage manufacturing facilities consume large amounts of water, but there are ways to optimize water usage and reduce consumption. Here are five basic methods to decrease water usage:

1. Install low-flow fixtures in employee welfare spaces, such as restrooms, kitchens, and break rooms. This simple switch to low-flow sinks, toilets, and dishwashers can reduce water usage by up to 30% in these areas.

2. Opt for drought-tolerant landscaping outside the facility and avoid irrigation systems. Minimal, drought-tolerant landscaping is recommended to enhance the entryway and parking lot, while also minimizing the attraction of rodents.

3. Train staff to minimize mess during processing, as water is primarily used for sanitation and cleanup. By reducing the amount of mess created, less water is required for cleaning.

4. Find the right balance of cleaning solution, water pressure, and temperature for efficient cleaning. By optimizing the amount and type of chemicals used, water consumption can be reduced. Higher chemical concentration and temperature generally require less pressure, resulting in less water usage.

5. Consider using nozzle restrictors to reduce water pressure and usage. However, be aware that employees may remove these restrictors to speed up cleaning, leading to increased water usage.

While greywater systems, which recycle water from sinks and cleaning processes for irrigation, are an option for conserving water in commercial buildings, they are generally not recommended for food and beverage plants. The potential food safety risks outweigh the water savings, as accidental contamination can occur if someone taps into the greywater system unknowingly.

June 18, 2018

The article discusses the favorable climate for investing in capital expenditures in businesses, particularly in the food and beverage industry. It highlights three forward-thinking investment options:

1. Food safety enhancements and FSMA compliance: With stricter food safety standards and compliance requirements, updating facilities to meet these standards or expanding for allergen segregation can be a wise investment. Improving hygienic zoning, creating dedicated spaces for allergens, and updating flooring for efficient cleaning are potential projects to consider.

2. Incorporating robotics and automation: The decreasing cost of robotics, labor shortages, and tax incentives make it an ideal time to invest in robotics and automation. Introducing robots into the production process can improve quality, reduce labor costs, and mitigate injury risks. Many companies are using this technology alongside human employees to increase efficiency and maintain current staff.

3. Upgrading refrigeration systems: The phaseout of ozone-depleting substances and the rising costs of R22 refrigerant are motivating manufacturers to upgrade refrigeration systems. Utilizing natural refrigerants like ammonia or carbon dioxide, or adopting low-charge packaged refrigeration systems, can provide thermodynamic benefits while minimizing risks associated with ammonia. These systems are modular, self-contained, and require minimal refrigerant charge.

By investing in these areas, businesses can enhance food safety, improve operational efficiency, and adapt to changing industry demands.

June 8, 2018

The article discusses the considerations and trends involved in renovating or building new food and beverage processing plants. It highlights the importance of meeting food safety regulations, building codes, EPA and zoning laws, as well as wastewater treatment requirements. The decision to renovate or build at a new site depends on factors such as cost, certification requirements, demand, and the need for flexibility. According to the article, many processors are renovating or expanding their existing facilities to comply with regulations and keep up with demand. Retrofitting existing buildings is a popular trend due to the need for quicker production and cost considerations. However, some companies find it more cost-effective to build new facilities instead of modifying older ones. The article emphasizes the role of architecture and engineering firms in helping processors understand the design, materials, and methods required to achieve compliance and maintain it. The numbers from a survey conducted by the publication indicate that renovations and expansions are more common than new construction projects. The focus on renovations and expansions reflects the industry's emphasis on meeting regulatory requirements, time-to-market demands, and increasing production capacity. The survey also reveals that food safety is a top concern for both architecture and engineering firms and food processors, along with flexibility in plant design and controlling costs. The article highlights various factors driving food manufacturing building design, including meeting consumer demands, accommodating flexible manufacturing, and addressing the growing market for ready-to-eat meals and allergen-free products. Plant flexibility, adaptability, and location near population centers are crucial considerations. The need for blast freezing, separate processing areas, and improved food safety measures are also mentioned.

June 1, 2018

Nestlé USA opened a frozen foods manufacturing facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 2003. The plant produces frozen meals under the 'Lean Cuisine' and 'Stouffer' brands. The facility covers 325,000 square feet, requires a $165 million investment, and employs 400 personnel. The plant is supported by a refrigerated warehouse and distribution center built by Millard Refrigerated Services. The warehouse provides temperature-controlled storage for ingredients and finished products. State grants funded infrastructure improvements, including wastewater treatment and road infrastructure. The engineering and construction contract was awarded to Stellar Group. The production lines utilize individual quick frozen (IQF) technology and stabilizing coatings. The meals are packaged using various formats, and the packaging process is carried out at a reduced temperature. The warehouse incorporates radio frequency scanning for inventory management. In 2006, an expansion project was announced to accommodate a new production line for hot pocket sandwiches. The facility is expected to employ over 2,100 personnel with additional expansion plans.

June 1, 2018

The article highlights five steps that can be taken to ensure an older food facility meets modern-day food safety standards:

1. Regularly inspect the roof for leaks: Roof leaks can lead to mold, bacterial growth, temperature changes, and external contaminants. Conduct routine roof inspections to catch leaks early and prevent damage.

2. Maintain floors and address pooling water: Cracked floors and pooling water can pose risks. Consider using floor coatings to change the pitch and direct water toward drains. Regularly maintain drains to avoid issues and erosion under the floor.

3. Keep door seals and sweeps in good condition: Doors can be a source of contamination. Ensure interior facility doors have proper air seals, and maintain rubber sweeps on exterior doors. Regularly test and replace seals and sweeps as needed.

4. Repair damaged walls promptly: Punctured walls, caused by collisions or forklifts, create areas that are difficult to clean and can harbor bacteria. Patch any holes in walls to prevent contamination from spreading beyond the surface.

5. Conduct routine surveys for bacterial growth: Implement ongoing surveys by quality assurance or maintenance/engineering teams to test processing areas. Consider the highest-risk areas and prioritize testing accordingly. Test the entire plant at least once a year, with high-risk areas tested monthly or more frequently if needed.

By implementing these measures, an older facility can maintain food safety standards and prevent potential issues.

June 1, 2018

The recent e. coli outbreak with romaine lettuce served as a reminder to food and beverage processors about the importance of prioritizing food safety. Recalls not only harm public health but also have severe consequences for a company's profits and consumer trust. To prevent recalls and ensure product safety, food and beverage manufacturers should focus on creating a sanitary plant design that eliminates hygienic hazards before they contaminate products and cause foodborne illnesses. Sanitary plant design involves three key principles: creating zones of separation and control, controlling temperature and moisture, and ensuring easy cleaning and maintenance. Zoning separates production areas to prevent cross-contamination, with raw food processing areas kept separate from areas handling finished products. A linear production flow helps control movement within the facility and minimizes the risk of product crossover. Controlled access points and sanitation stations further prevent cross-contamination. Temperature and airflow control are critical in inhibiting microbial growth. HVAC units and refrigeration systems should maintain optimal temperatures, control air dew points, and filter and pressurize air to prevent outside contaminants from entering the facility. Proper ventilation and air pressure help maintain different hygiene zones. Sanitary design also involves ensuring that the facility and equipment are easy to clean and maintain. Flooring plays a vital role in preventing bacterial growth, with materials like urethane concrete coating or vitrified tiles providing durability and resistance to chemicals and wear. Sloped floors with drains and cove bases help manage water accumulation and prevent water from seeping into walls. Insulated metal panels (IMPs) are commonly used for walls and ceilings due to their hygienic properties and durability. They have solid, flat surfaces that can be easily cleaned and are resistant to chemicals. When selecting equipment, food and beverage manufacturers should choose nonporous, easy-to-clean options made of high-grade stainless steel. Clean-in-place (CIP) functionality reduces the need for manual cleaning and ensures repeatability. The placement of equipment should allow enough space for maintenance and cleaning. Elevating equipment off the floor and away from walls facilitates access and cleaning. Exterior elements should not be overlooked, as they can also impact food safety. Using a thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roof instead of a ballasted roof prevents leaks and bacterial contamination. TPO roofs do not require a gravel ballast, reducing costs and eliminating ballast-related issues. In summary, a well-designed sanitary plant considers zoning, temperature and moisture control, easy cleaning and maintenance, and exterior elements to prevent contamination, ensure food safety, and minimize the risk of recalls and public health issues.

May 30, 2018

Efficient product flow is crucial for the success of a food and beverage business, as inefficiencies can lead to financial losses, time wastage, compromised food quality, and safety hazards. Designing a new facility with a linear flow, where product moves seamlessly from receiving to shipping, is key to optimizing product flow. Here are some guidelines for each step: Receiving: Place the receiving area on the perimeter of the building for easy truck access. Automate the transfer of raw product from trucks to storage to minimize handling. Raw Storage: Locate the raw storage area close to the receiving area and automate the delivery of product to production, reducing employee-product interaction. Production: Ensure a smooth flow from raw storage to production and from production to packaging. Provide convenient access to the production area from operations and maintenance departments. Packaging and Palletizing: Ideally, packaging and palletizing should occur in the same area to avoid unnecessary manual handling. Automation is preferred, and product exposure should be minimized to prevent contamination. Finished Product Storage: Minimize the need for finished product storage by maintaining an efficient production schedule. If storage is necessary, keep it minimal and close to the shipping area, with direct access from the palletizing area. Shipping: Design the shipping area to be easily accessible for trucks and establish a direct link to administrative offices. Maintenance, Utilities, and Admin Areas: Although not part of the product flow, these areas impact efficiency. Locate the maintenance department centrally to provide quick access to the entire plant. Consider separating utilities from the processing area and placing them outside the building for future expansion. Design segregated administrative offices with a single-entry point to ensure smooth shift changes and minimize cross-contamination risks. By considering these factors during the facility design process, food and beverage businesses can optimize product flow and enhance overall efficiency.

May 21, 2018

Improper product flow in a food plant can have various negative impacts, including financial costs, time wastage, compromised food quality, and safety hazards. Signs of inefficient product flow include surplus inventory, excess work in progress (WIP), and discrepancies in output and tracking. These issues often go unnoticed but can be detrimental to the business. Poor product flow can lead to increased risks of accidents and injuries, wasted time and money, greater potential for product damage and contamination, and limited opportunities for automation. Streamlining product flow can be achieved through a facility assessment that identifies areas for optimization, such as efficient space utilization, reduction of manual handling, integration of automation, and better coordination between different areas of the facility. Engaging an experienced third party for the assessment can bring fresh insights and expertise in identifying and addressing these issues.

May 1, 2018

Clean-in-place (CIP) is a commonly used method in food and beverage manufacturing facilities to clean equipment and piping without disassembling them. However, over time, changes in the CIP system parameters can lead to inefficiencies. The four main variables in CIP systems are time, flow, temperature, and concentration of cleaning solution. Adjustments made to these variables, such as increasing temperature or concentration to speed up cleaning, can result in increased energy use, chemical overspending, water wastage, and reduced production time. Conducting a system audit internally or with the help of a third-party firm can ensure that the CIP system is operating efficiently. Neglecting the efficiency of the CIP system can lead to risks such as compromised product quality, potential contamination, and product recalls. Proper cleaning procedures are crucial to prevent contamination in food and beverage manufacturing facilities. Prioritizing cleaning and conducting audits can help maintain product quality, customer relationships, brand integrity, and financial performance.

April 26, 2018

The article highlights the risk of food product recalls due to the presence of undeclared allergens and misbranding. In 2017, there were 440 recalls of FDA and USDA regulated food products, with nearly half of them (218 recalls) caused by undeclared ingredients such as eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, and wheat. To reduce the risk of recalls, the article suggests several measures that businesses can implement. These include using barcode scanners and vision systems to ensure the correct packaging and ingredients are used, establishing good manufacturing practices (GMP) throughout the facility, dedicating separate production lines for allergen and non-allergen products, solidifying the chain of approvals for packaging design, and maintaining close scrutiny of ingredient suppliers. By incorporating these practices, businesses can minimize the chances of mispacks, cross-contamination, packaging errors, and supplier-related issues, ultimately reducing the likelihood of costly recalls and ensuring compliance with regulations regarding allergen labeling and product safety.

April 20, 2018

The article highlights the importance of thorough planning and facility assessment in achieving successful outcomes in greenfield and renovation projects. Using the example of Royal Cup Coffee, the premier importer and roaster of specialty coffees and fine teas, the article discusses how the company approached Stellar for cutting-edge manufacturing updates to accommodate their growing business. Stellar worked on three construction projects, including a new facility for coffee bean reception and storage, expansion of processing and distribution spaces, and renovation for SQF Level 2 certification. A facility assessment played a crucial role in identifying areas for cost savings, increased safety, streamlined production, and risk reduction. One year after completing the projects, Royal Cup has experienced significant benefits. These include improved food safety and quality control leading to certification from the Safe Quality Food Institute, enhanced facility cleanliness, improved product flow and storage flexibility, integrated software for better tracking and data collection, increased energy efficiency through thermal upgrades and LED lighting, improved work conditions including thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and visibility, and improved customer satisfaction and acquisition of new accounts. By engaging in the facility assessment process and aligning it with their strategic plan, Royal Cup achieved their project goals and ensured that Stellar's work aligned with their ambitions.